A new series launches today in which some of Malta and Gozo’s most beloved contemporary artists reveal what goes into making the distinctive pieces they’ve become known for. Artist Secrets, presented by award-winning art organisation Allura, gets up close and personal with leading local painters on location and at their studios for an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at how art is made.
The Artist Secrets series not only features painters sharing the skills they usually keep to themselves, it’s also a love letter to Malta from the artists who paint it. It is sure to resonate with Malta’s community of artists, aspiring artists and art-lovers, but will also appeal to those interested in the Maltese scenery and architecture.
Structured around topics such as colour, composition, storytelling and artistic licence, artists are filmed imparting their wisdom and skills while creating a painting from scratch. Although not intended as lessons as such, each standalone episode is designed so viewers can replicate the activity themselves if they feel so inspired.
Series host Laura Swale explains the impetus for the series: “We wanted to show how fascinating art can be if you get to see the process, and not just the end result. Most of us only ever see art in a gallery, as completed, static images we consume in seconds. By then we’ve missed out on arguably the most exciting part: the making of it. This is the ‘live-action’ version.”
The aim of Artist Secrets, part of the broader Allura Open Art Studios Programme, is to showcase local talent while inspiring viewers to be creative themselves.
“Art lovers want to know about the artists,” Swale explains, “and a good proportion of any artist’s audience is other artists. Right now, there’s a huge boom in interest in how art is made. The phenomenon of television ‘edu-tainment’ from the 1980s is seeing a resurgence online.
“YouTube art tutorials get millions of views, Art Room on TikTok has almost five million followers, Patreon artists have massive followings and TV art competitions like Landscape Artist of the Year have been exported worldwide. Clearly, creative learning is resonating with us.”
Allura aims to identify the collectible artists of the future and promote their work. Those featured in the series include painter Mark Schembri, Christopher Saliba from Gozo and plein-air artist Debbie Bonello, who describes the series as “a window into the world of a painter” and hopes it “encourages anyone to just grab an easel and try painting outside too.”
Saliba says that filming was fun and explains that much preparation went into making his episode, all about colour, into “an effective educational and visually rich feature”.
Showcase local talent while inspiring viewers to be creative themselves
“Many viewers watch documentaries on television,” says Schembri. “The ‘how to’ nowadays is very interesting because people like to learn new things.”
A further episode spotlights a gifted local art student who recently won the prestigious Sovereign Student Global Art Prize. Having recently completed her ‘A’ levels at Junior College, Paraskovia Podorvana describes Artist Secrets as a great idea and hopes it will teach aspiring art students new techniques.
“Every one of our artists was a dream to work with,” says Swale, “also, as we got to know them it was interesting to see how their artistic styles reflect their individual characters. I can’t thank them enough for their professionalism and good company, and also for that of my exceptional colleague Bernadett Mozer, for whom I’ve been grateful every day of this project.”
Later this year, the Allura Open Art Studios Programme will also present a collective show featuring the paintings from the series, plus artwork by Allura’s wider cohort of artists, details of which will be announced soon.
Looking forward, Swale believes that the ‘open studio’ concept has mileage.
“We would love for this to be the first chapter in an ongoing effort to capture more of Malta’s contemporary artists in their lifetime. Not only could it become an important cultural archive and a learning resource for future generations, it’s also just great viewing for everyone who loves Malta and its art.”
The Allura Open Art Studios Programme is supported by Arts Council Malta through the Programme Support Fund. Support is also provided by Attard and Co, the Melita Foundation and The Sovereign Art Foundation.
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